The Cuban government has released a new batch of photos of Elian Gonzalez -- the latest in a propaganda war that is sure to fire-up the Cuban-American community.
The photos show a 16-year-old Elian wearing his military school uniform, attending a meeting of the Young Communist Union. The government's news release had the headline:
"Young Elian Gonzalez Defends His Revolution in the Youth Congress"
It's been 10 years since Elian arrived in Miami, floating in an inner tube after his mother drowned trying to escape Cuba for America. Relatives took in Elian and sought to gain custody so he could stay here permanently. But Elian's father in Cuba fought back and, after several months and a dramatic armed raid, he was returned to Cuba.
Elian is considered a hero in Cuba, seen as a young man who won a victory over the American government. The Cuban government has kept a close eye on Elian and his father. Cuban State Security has a monitoring station next to their home. His father was made a member of the Cuban National Assembly. It often issues updates of Elian as a proud Cuban.
Former leader Fidel Castro has a particular fondness for Elian. Over the years he has shown up for the lad's birthday and graduation parties. The feeling is apparently mutual, considering in 2005 Elian told "60 Minutes" he considers Castro "not only as a friend, but also as a father."
Cuban-Americans are still angered by the whole affair, as are many conservatives. The right-wing American Thinker wrote after seeing the pictures:
If Elian had been granted asylum, today he would be a teenager preparing to go to college with every opportunity for success ahead of him. Instead, on the cusp of adulthood, Elian poses for propaganda photos sandwiched between Cuban army soldiers attending the Union of Young Communists congress in Havana...The youthful Gonzalez should have been wrapped in the America flag. Instead a boy who once represented the quest for the God given right to be free, waves a Cuban flag symbolizing poverty, oppression, authoritarianism and misinformation.